Friday, September 08, 2006

From Batch Slipping to Bitch-Slapping

When the Big Ben QB fill-in, Charlie Batch, lost the handle on the exchange from center Jeff Hartings, the resultant turnover on a play which began as first-and-goal at the Dolphins 1, well ... mortal sins such as that are what conjures up images of Kordell and Bubby.
Stew and Brist were infamous for that ... coughing up the ball inside the 5 with Steel Town trailing, 17-14, early in the fourth quarter.

It was looking as though that fumble was going to be THE "that sucks" moment of the season opener ... a real crappy way to end a drive which had been well-crafted and suitable-for-framing.
Only moments earlier, Nate Washington had run a 3rd-and-6, end-around for an 8-yard gain to the 13 before Fast Willie ripped off two 6-yd. runs to the Miami 1.
SteelTown, as they say, was "imposing its will."
Then, Batch got all butterfingery with the snap and Faneca, pulling from his left guard spot, kneed the ball out of Batch's bobbly grip.

Thankfully, there'll be no headlines (not this week, anyway) chronicling ineptitude.
That's because the Steelers went from a moment of "BATCH SLIPPING" to "BITCH-SLAPPING."
You wouldn't expect anything less from the fella from Homestead's Steel Valley H.S.

It is ironic, though. The last time Charlie Batch started a season opener, it was for the '01 Lions ... a team which lost its first nine games with Charlie at the controls.
First, Batch got blamed.
Then, Batch got benched.
Then, Batch got bitched -- that is, when Detroit fell head over heels for its new messiah (Joey Harrington) during the '01 college season.

Since Joey H is currently Culpepper's backup in Miami, it might've been fun to see Batch walk across the field after the Steelers' 28-17 triumph and shake hands with Joey.
Just think if on-field microphones had caught Charlie saying to Joey, "Remember the days when the Detroit media held me responsible for an offensive line which couldn't block, a defense which couldn't make key stops and special teams which sucked and then when you were handed my job, you couldn't break any of the prolific passing team passing records established by Eric Hipple or Andre Ware? If ya hang on for a second, I'll run home and get my Super Bowl ring and we can see if it's as nice as the two or three you won for the Lions, okay?"
THAT ... woulda been classic.

Funny how it all works out for a QB when, instead of setting up in the pocket behind a weak-ass OL wearing silver and Honolulu blue, it's pass-protection provided by blue-collar he-men decked out in black n' gold.
Charlie Batch now plays for a head coach who slugged it out in the NFL trenches ... just as Batch's current O-coordinator (Ken Whisenhunt) did.
When he was in Detroit, Batch's head coach, Marty Mornhinweg, knew the keys to victory against South San Jose opponents such as Santa Teresa or Leland, but, c'mon ... this is the NFL, which stands for "Not For Long" when you're making (#&%$#@) calls like that.

Charlie Batch serves as an interesting case study for another reason: He's a minority QB.
No, not because he's black -- we've got a bunch of black QBs, so no biggie there.
It's because he's in the minority of "QBs Named Charlie." Let's face it, those don't come down the pike every 30 minutes.
Yes ... right now, there's Charlie Frye in Cleveland, who Brownie fans are expecting to have a breakout season which will range anywhere from mostly sub-standard to typically mediocre ... and Charlie Whitehurst of Clemson is the rookie backing up Philip Rivers in San Diego (and, unless Phil is injured, there won't be many chances for Charlie to break the NFL career record established by his daddy, David Whitehurst, for "most times dropping back to pass while looking frightened and/or confused").

As per those other Charlie QBs, all that comes to mind is Hall of Famer Charley Connerly wearing #42 for those NY Giants squads of yesteryear and journeyman Charley Johnson who we always remember as a prop Cardinal or Bronco QB in those NFL Films clips wherein Deacon Jones or Bob Lilly was decapitating a QB.
That's it? Two retired Charleys and two (maybe three) active Charlies?
It's enough to give a guy a big ol' Charlie Horse (what we used to call hamstring injuries back in the '70s).
After we got decapitated by Deacon Jones or Bob Lilly.

Anyway, NBC's broadcast wasn't too shabby for those of us who like watching in in regular definition known as "REG-DEF."
Then again, the NBC cameras captured NBC employee Jerome Bettis clapping for Willie Parker shortly before halftime.
Memo to Bussie: You work for NBC now. No clapping.
"Man law?"
Man law ...

Funny footnote: The last time NBC was in Pittsburgh when Bettis WASN'T on the roster was the AFC Championship Game in Jan. '96.
For some odd reason, the videotape of that game found its way into the Pitchfork VCR on Wed. eve. and, jeez ... it was a nice little flashback.
Three months before the Pitchfork and Mrs. PF7 moved in together for good ... the tape was made because she was helping the infirmed.

It makes ya chuckle when ya re-watch the video of the Steelers' 20-16 victory over the Colts and you're reminded of what you forgot since the last time you watched the tape (probably at least 5 yrs. ago).
NBC's broadcast team that day consisted of Enberg, Simms and Maguire -- and, yes, more than 10 yrs. ago, Paul Maguire was as worthless as he is now.
He adds nada to a broadcast.

On the field for the Colts that day: A punter named Chris Gardocki.
That name sounds familiar.
It was a simpler time back then ... when NBC obsessed with spending the Steelers' comeback showing us the Three Rivers luxury box where Mrs. Cowher Power and Daughter of Cowher Power were filled with exuberance and hysteria.
Indeed ... those were the days before the unhealthy attraction to a 9-year-old Meagan Cowher grew into an obsession with a 19-year-old Meagan Cowher.
That is ... for those Steeler fans who collected photos of the Lombardi Trophy presentation last Feb. and then used scissors to cut out everyone pictured except Meagan Cowher.

Anyway, it was nice to see that NBC's Monday Night package (not the ESPN package) won the rights to have the players provide their own introductions -- thereby ensuring that we'll hear guys referring to their Miami alma mater as "The U."
During the player intros for Pittsburgh, Fast Willie chose NOT to say "North Carolina," but rather "Clinton High."
And linebacker Larry Foote elected to inform America that he was a "Detroit Pershing Doughboy."
Question for Larry: Did you know that Jerome Bettis is also from Detroit?

NBC's playin' it smart with the 2-man booth of Michaels and Madden -- and, it was refreshing to hear their voices after what America got three nights earlier when the circus known as Disney/ABC/ESPN gave us that carnival ride of the "Multi-Screen Matrix" which upset our eyes, our brains and our tummies worse than repeated rides on The Tilt O' Whirl or The Scrambler when we were kids at the county fair.
That Mega-Scream Matrix during the 'Noles/'Canes game was disturbing and alarming, particularly the mini square which showed The U's QB Kyle Wright standing emotionlessly motionless when FSU had the ball.

History tells us that the only time it's appropriate to have that many mini squares on the screen is when Cindy's in the lower left looking up at Greg in the upper right; Greg's looking down at Bobby in the lower right; Bobby's looking up and over at Marcia in the upper left; Marcia is looking at Peter in the middle right; Peter's looking up at Mom in the top middle; Mom's looking down at Bobby in the lower right; Bobby's looking across at Cindy in the lower left; Cindy's looking across to Dad in the bottom middle; Dad's looking up at Greg in the upper right; and Ann B. Davis pops into the center square as Alice.
"Are we clear?"
Crystal ...

The other positive aspect to a rewarding Thurs. nite outcome was that erased from my memory the horrors of the previous Thurs. nite when certain parts of America had access to the Buffalo-Temple donnybrook.
Haystack Headquarters was tuned in for part of the fourth quarter and OT (lighten up, Francis ... the Mrs. is from B'Lo, let's not forget).
Tied 3-3 through regulation.
We shouldn't say another word about that game. After all, it was a forgettable, throwaway MAC game -- which in no way resembled those classic tilts when Charlie Batch was leading Eastern Michigan against either Central Michigan or Western Michigan.
Weird footnote: The nation of Huron Indians was dismayed when Eastern Michigan switched its mascot from "Hurons" to "Eagles" several years ago because it took the tribe out of the mainstream, as it were -- and Central Michigan held onto "Chippewas" as the mascot. If we're lucky, Myles Brand will step in and save the day in the Huron/Chippewa standoff.

Well, no matter if the Stillers go 10-6 or 6-10 this season, it seems as though the team will keep its Pitchfork captivated for most of this, his 35th season as a fan (and this, Dick Hoak's 35th season as the team's running backs coach).
And, wouldn't ya know it ... only a few hours before the Thurs. nite premier, the postman left a package on the front porch -- and, inside were three new Steeler t-shirts (and a tin of homemade chocolate chip cookies, naturally).
Some of us have mother-in-laws who are a little nutso 32 percent of the time, but who are well-meaning and good-intentioned 93 percent of the time.

Normally, most of us wouldn't be caught dead wearing clothes hand-picked by a 78-year-old in-law, but, son of a gun ... the ol' girl came through with three selections which didn't suck or look completely gay.
Makes ya wonder if this had anything to do with the fact that she was there for SBXL and if she noticed how her son-in-law wore not a $200-plus authentic jersey, but opted for the non-flashy, black Reebok cap, a yellow t-shirt and a black windbreaker with a very small Pac-10 football logo on it.
Such a low-key approach to Steeler game-day apparel may have troubled her, but it's more a matter of not knowing the answer to: "When wearing the #83 LIPPS jersey, what's the rule on wristbands? Looie always wore two yellow wristbands on each wrist, so is it okay to wear white ones? And, should the black wristbands be used to accessorize a white #21 FIGURES jersey? What's the judgment call on a black #33 HOGE jersey worn with blue sweatpants? Or what if while wearing a white #14 BLACKLEDGE jersey, gray long sleeves are protruding from underneath?"

This is why the Pitchfork does not partake in the authentic game-day/game-jersey matrix/paradigm.
Not to fret, Iron City. The Haystack crew was in full force.
The bobblehead on the mantel (wearing #01 and sprawling to make the reception at the pylon) ... the bobblehead atop the CD case (wearing #1 and looking far more breakable than #01) ... four micro helmets and a super-mini Steelers monster truck atop the fridge ... and, of course, mini-Jesus wearing a teensy-weensy #75 Mean Joe helmet as he plays football with the kids in the small statue display atop the reg-def TV.

So far, mini-Jesus has never fumbled that handoff from the kid ...

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